As a number of her classmates work to secure jobs in business, law and medicine, College senior Chloe Castellon is taking a different step toward a professional career: directing an independent film.
A double major in English and Cinema Studies, Castellon will be collaborating with students from Penn and from the University of the Arts, as well as local film professionals, to produce a 15-minute short entitled “La Virgen” about an adolescent Latina girl who has a “modern-day revelation” when she encounters the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe at a rave.
Castellon said her subject matter was inspired by graffiti art depicting the Virgin — an important figure in the folk tradition of some Catholic communities — in an urban setting, which sparked her interest in “juxtaposing the environments” of folklore and religion against urban American life.
College senior Jenna Russell, the assistant director and producer for the film, said the team hopes to begin shooting in January and finish within three months. They also plan to turn the shooting of the rave scene into a downtown event sometime in January where people can pay to attend a party and serve as extras in the film at the same time.
Although Castellon and Russell are still casting the four lead roles — which include three college-age Latina women and another older woman to play the main character’s mother — they have assembled a full crew of about 20 members, according to Castellon.
Castellon said it was crucial for her to reach out to other universities and film professionals in the Philadelphia community because of the broader range of access they can provide for a film project. Although Penn provides some equipment for undergraduate filmmakers, Castellon said, she “would still encourage students to seek outside resources and help.”
According to Nicola Gentili, the associate director of Penn’s Cinema Studies program, students enrolled in the “Video I” and “Video II” classes within the Fine Arts Department have access to equipment kept in Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall, and Cinema Studies majors and minors can rent one of five cameras on reserve for their program from Multi-Media Services in David Rittenhouse Laboratory.
Student filmmakers also have access to editing equipment in Weigle Information Commons at Van Pelt Library.
Gentili said the amount of equipment is somewhat limited because the Cinema Studies program focuses on film history and analysis rather than production. Still, he said the department works to provide technical resources. “We understand students’ need to fulfill their dream to make a movie,” he said.
Castellon, who is applying to film school and starting her own production company, said she realized she wanted to pursue a career in film the summer after her sophomore year when she attended the Penn-in-Cannes program and met Penn graduates who had successfully followed that path.
“It made me realize that I wanted a career I could be passionate about, and that my passion was film,” she said.
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